Food Journal

Welcome to my food journal! This is officially on the net as of Oct. 24th 2011! I will try to put new entries in my journal once a week if possible – some of them may take a little longer. My journal is where I will be writing about anything going on in my culinary world. This includes recipes from my home, restaurant and event reviews, some basic culinary information that I want to share with you, and whatever else may come to mind. The food journal will always have the last ten things I put on the site in it, just not categorized. Everything will be in it’s own category on the menu bar as well. This is the best place to look if you want to see my latest post, because it will always be at the top. You can use the search tool to look for a specific subject by typing key words into the search bar. You can also go to the index on the menu bar for a list of everything on the site. If there is something you would like to know about that I haven’t posted or if you have a question, please feel free to contact me and I will try to answer as soon as possible. I love to share my food and knowledge, and  I put this site up for us!

Here are my 5 most recent entries!
If you would like to see a list of all of my recipes, lessons and reviews, please go to the index on the menu bar.

Fried Pickles


Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Chili Mac





German Chocolate Cake (whole wheat) with Coconut Pecan Frosting – Recipe

Posted by on Jan 16, 2012 in Desserts, Food Journal | 0 comments

German Chocolate Cake (whole wheat) with Coconut Pecan Frosting – Recipe

German Chocolate Cake – Last week for my birthday, my kids practically shoved my husband and I out of the front door while promising to watch the little ones. They said I needed to go on a birthday date and that we should go see a movie and have some fun. What I did not know was that they had a secret plan. Tristan (age 16) and Vanessa (age 14) were making a roast turkey dinner, and Eleyna (age 12) and Tia (age 3) were making me a personal German Chocolate Cake. YUMMY :D! The picture you see here is a picture of the cake that they made. Pretty impressive in my opinion! It was beautiful and delicious with a perfect consistency throughout. The consistency, in this case, refers to the air holes-they should be uniform with no tunnels if you mixed it properly (something that as a chef, I can’t help but notice). The following recipe is my recipe for a full size cake. It is super delicious! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, dinner was awesome too! Happy Cooking!

2 c whole wheat pastry flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c Splenda (or another sweetener, you can also just use more sugar)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
11 Tbsp butter (I use Plugra)
3/4 c milk
1/4 c yogurt (plain, fat free-vanilla would be fine too)
2 tsp vanilla (I like Bourbon Pure Vanilla Paste – available in the “foodie shop” on my site!)
3 eggs
4 oz melted chocolate (I use Scharfenberger Chocolate – available in the “foodie shop” on my site!)

1. allow your ingredients to come up to room temperature
2. prepare your pans by spraying the inside with cooking spray and lining the bottom with parchment (wax) paper – the easiest way to do this is to put your pan onto the paper, trace it using a butter knife (it will scratch the line) and cutting it out along the line, then place it on the bottom (the cooking spray should hold it in place)
3. pre-heat oven to 350°
4. in a small mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, Splenda, baking soda, baking powder, salt
5. in a measuring cup combine milk, yogurt, vanilla and eggs
6. melt chocolate, set to the side (I melt mine in the microwave in a bowl at 20 second increments stirring in between, it usually only takes 40 seconds, but if it’s not melted do ten more)
7. in a medium mixing bowl cream butter
8. add 1/3 of the dry mixture and mix until combined
9. scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula
10. add 1/3 of the wet ingredients and mix until combined
11. repeat steps 7-9 adding the second 1/3 of the dry, mixing, scraping, then 1/3 of the wet, mix, scrape and so on
12. mix in the melted chocolate
13. mix the batter on medium speed for 3 minutes stopping at the 2 minute mark to scrape the bowl
14. pour batter into two well greased and lined 8 or 9 inch cake pans
15. bake at 350° for about 35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean
16. allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from the pans and allow to finish cooling on cooling racks

Ingredients for Coconut-Pecan Frosting
*this makes a ton of frosting – enough to frost your cake thick, or even to cut each layer in half and make a “four layer cake” so don’t worry about laying it on thick :) if you’d like the “normal amount” of frosting, use the measurements below for “less frosting” and follow the same instructions
12 oz evaporated milk
1 1/2 c sugar
6 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
3/4 c butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c coconut
1 1/2 c pecans (broken up)

Instructions for Frosting

1. Combine all ingredients (except coconut and pecans) into a medium saucepan
2. cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, about 10-12 minutes
3. remove from the heat
4. add the coconut and the pecans and stir to combine
5. cool until thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally

Ingredients for Less Frosting

8 oz evaporated milk
1 c sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 c butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c coconut
1 c pecans (broken up)

Tuna Melts – Recipe

Posted by on Jan 13, 2012 in Food Journal, Lunch | 0 comments

Tuna Melts – Recipe

Tuna Melts (recipe and instructions follow) – I have loved tuna sandwiches ever since I can remember. Plain old, not fried, no cheese, only mayo and pickle relish added to the tuna -tuna sandwiches. It wasn’t until I was around 12 years old that I was introduced to the idea of a tuna melt. I can still remember the day I tried them (no, I don’t remember the first time I tried everything). My wonderful mother was in the kitchen cooking and I could smell them. It was a new smell to me, a weird combination of something sweet with fish :). I wandered in to see what she was making. When she told me what she had done to my beloved tuna sandwich, I was completely grossed out and offended – as often happens when you’re 12. My mom assured me I would like it but all I could think of was how disgusting warm tuna was going to be. She somehow convinced me to try it-bribery in the form of a dollar and the promise of a treat after if I didn’t like it. I was a pretty good negotiator at that age ;D at least in my head. Of coarse it was delicious and it turned out that I wasn’t as good at negotiating as I thought (should have left out the if I didn’t like it part). Now I had to face the tough choice of saying I didn’t like it to get my treat and my dollar and prove my mom wrong-always fun at that age. Or I had to suck it up and walk away with my tuna melt. I made the right choice and took the sandwich-that’s because they’re awesome-like my mom :). I have since taken that basic tuna melt and turned it into one of my favorite sandwiches. I hope you love it too! Happy Cooking!

This is a shallot - isn't it beautiful? :)

5 cans chunk light tuna packed in water, well drained (not the all white-I’ve read it’s higher in Mercury)
1/4 cup shallots, minced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 Granny Smith Apple, small dice
1/3 cup mayo or more if needed (you can use low-fat or half it with yogurt to make this a little healthier)
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup celery, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or more to your taste)
4 ounces cheddar cheese (I use Tillamook Sharp Cheddar)
whole wheat bread (this will make 5 or 6 sandwiches depending on how thick you make them)

1. Mix all of the ingredients (except the cheese and bread) together in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Butter one side of each slice of bread (like you’re making grilled cheese).
3. Place one piece of bread in the pan, butter side down, turn the heat on medium.
4. Add a layer of cheddar cheese.
5. Spoon some tuna on top and mash it down gently so it’s even.
6. Place the second piece of bread on top.
7. Place a lid on top of the pan – this helps it heat all the way through.
8. When the bottom bread is golden brown, flip the sandwich * see note.
9. Cook the other side, remove it from the pan and enjoy-we eat these with salt and vinegar kettle chips or pasta salad (recipe coming soon).

*When I flip these, I slide my spatula under the bottom side and lift the sandwich out of the pan. With my other hand, I lift the saute pan and turn it upside down and put it on top of the “top side” of the sandwich. I then flip the whole thing back over. I hope this doesn’t sound confusing, it’s kind of hard to describe. I’m just trying to explain an easy way to flip them so that you don’t dump everything out of the sandwich ;D !

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Hummus with Warm Pita Chips – Recipe

Posted by on Jan 13, 2012 in Appetizers, Food Journal | 0 comments

Hummus with Warm Pita Chips – Recipe

Hummus with Warm Pita Chips (hummus recipe and video tutorial follow) – Hummus is one of the absolute easiest things in the world to make – if you have a food processor :)! This makes a really great appetizer for a party or for your family. It is also a nice healthy snack. It goes well served with pita chips, or some nice crudite-pronounced crew-di-tay (raw veggies). You can make it a day or two in advance and it will keep in the fridge for about four days after the day you make it. I like to put it on the dining table while I cook dinner for the kids to munch on with  crudite. This helps with the “Mom, when’s dinner going to be done” question and also helps to ensure they get a good dose of veggies with their dinner – very important! You will also notice that I use canned chickpeas in this recipe. Using dried ones will provide more nutrition, canned is faster. I included how to prepare the dried chickpeas after the recipe so you have the option to do it either way. I also love to talk to my family about food origin and love the opportunity to teach them about different countries and their food cultures. Hummus comes from the Middle East-there are a few theories about exactly where, but Israelis and Palestinians commonly consume it. Food history is super interesting and I highly recommend checking some out! In the mean time – have some hummus! Happy cooking!


1 can (15 oz) chickpeas/garbanzo beans *see note about using dried chickpeas-much healthier
1/2 cup tahini paste
1-2 cloves garlic (you can adjust the amount according to your own taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
2-3 Tablespoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed if possible)
1 teaspoon salt


1. Pour the chickpeas into a strainer and drain and rinse your chickpeas until the bubbles are gone-it is very important to get rid of the bubbles or you’ll give everyone gas *see note on using dried chickpeas.
2. Place the chickpeas into a food processor and puree. If you have time after this step allow to chill one hour (it helps the texture), if you don’t have time, don’t worry,  it’s cool,  just move onto the next step.
3. Add the tahini paste, garlic, cumin, lemon juice and salt.
4. Puree to desired consistency-if it is to thick, add a little water and puree some more (keep in mind that it may thicken up a little upon standing).
5. Serve with delicious warm pita chips – recipe follows.

Canned Chickpeas -vs- Regular – let’s compare some labels

omega-3 – canned chickpeas contain around 48% less omega-3 fatty acid
Niacin- 50-75% less in canned chickpeas
Folate- 50-75% less in canned chickpeas
amino acids- 35% less in canned chickpeas
Sodium- canned contain about 52% more

All that said, it’s OK to use canned if you just want a quick snack and weren’t planning ahead. Don’t let me make you feel guilty, I use canned about half the time too. :) One thing to keep in mind though is that canned have more of tendency to cause gas. If you’re having a snack by yourself, I suppose this makes no difference. If you are entertaining a bunch of people, you a may want to take it into consideration! :)

How to cook your dried Chickpeas.

1. Spread one cup dried chickpeas out on a plate.
2. Check through them for damaged chickpeas, yucky ones, and pebbles-remove the unwanted ones.
3. Put them in a bowl and fill it with water, swirl them with your hand (the water will cloud up), strain them and repeat-do this until the water stays pretty clear.
4. Soak in clean water with 1 Tbls of baking soda overnight.
5. Drain and place back in the bowl with clean water.
6. Soak the chickpeas for an additional three hours.
7. Place them in a large pot with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, bring them to a boil and cook for 45 minutes.
8. Drain them and put them back into the pot. Cover them with water.
9. Bring the chickpeas to a boil and cook them until you can easily mash one between your fingers.
10. Remove the peels and foam that rise to the top during cooking and discard them.
11. Drain the chickpeas (save one cup of water for thinning the hummus if needed (it has more flavor then out of the tap)) and allow the chickpeas to cool.
12. Continue with the recipe above.

Why all the soaking and draining?

The answer is simple and not so simple. The simple answer-you don’t want to give everyone gas. The not so simple answer-beans contain oligosaccharides. This is a sugar that, because of its large molecular size, our bodies don’t break down. It makes it way through our small intestines where most sugars are absorbed and into our large intestine. When it makes its way into our large intestine, the bacteria that live there have a small party (they never get sugar, so it’s a treat). They process the oligosaccharide, this produces gas-not so good. The sugar is water soluble though – Yay! That means that if you soak your beans and change the water, you pour the oligosaccharide down the drain. This is also why it’s important to change the water. The water can only “hold” so much. It’s kind of like when you dissolve salt in water for a brine, if you put in too much, it doesn’t all dissolve. Also, don’t cook the beans in the soaking water. It defeats the purpose!

Warm Pita Chips


2 pieces pita bread
1 Tablespoon olive oil (enough to brush on pita)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.
2. Lightly brush the pita bread with olive oil.
3. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
4. Cut it into triangles.
5. Bake the pita at 400° until it’s warm-three minutes or so.
6. Serve the warm pita with your delicious homemade hummus.

Please enjoy this “how-to” video!

Soft Boiled Eggs with Cumin and Brown Butter Sauce – Recipe

Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 in Breakfast, Food Journal | 0 comments

Soft Boiled Eggs with Cumin and Brown Butter Sauce – Recipe

Brown Butter

Soft boiled eggs with cumin and brown butter sauce (recipe follows) – I’m not really sure if I had ever actually eaten soft boiled eggs until I met my husband Xavier. When we first got together, he would tell me about one of his favorite breakfasts (soft boiled eggs sprinkled with cumin and served with saltines and butter). It’s something his mother would always make and therefore, one of his comfort foods.  I always thought it sounded pretty good, but never was excited about it enough to make it. So, one morning my darling Xavier surprised me with breakfast. Guess what it was. That’s right, at least I hope you guessed right, it’s what we’ve been talking about in some detail :). Delicious, silky soft boiled egg heaven! Why oh why had nobody ever told me about this luxurious yumminess. Yes, it’s sad, I had been failed my whole life on soft boiled eggs :( . Don’t let this happen to the people you love :D ! However, I didn’t feel right giving you a recipe that involved saltines (not that they don’t have their place-a somewhere, I guess). So, I made a little change to kind of “chef it up”! I hope you love it! Happy Cooking!


Yummy Soft Boiled Eggs Before They're Mashed Up

2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon brown butter


1. Place eggs in a saucepan and cover them with water. Allow them to set for about 10 minutes (this helps prevent the eggs from cracking since they warm up a little and don’t go from super cold to hot so fast).
2. Place the butter in a saute pan and heat it until it is light brown. Set it to the side *it is a little difficult to make a tiny amount of brown butter and get it out of the pan, so I recommend making a few tablespoons and putting the left overs into the fridge tightly covered (you can use the extra on fish, toast, in a sauce, anywhere you would use butter-just don’t heat it too much more or it’ll be black butter :)).
3. Turn the eggs onto high heat and bring the water to a boil.
4. Allow the eggs to boil for about 2-3 minutes. It’s best to do an extra egg the first time you make this and take it out at the two minute mark and see if it’s done. You have to know your stove. How long it takes the water to boil plays a big factor in the timing.
5. Remove the eggs from the heat.
6. Slice the egg in half (still in its’ shell) with a knife and scoop out the insides into a bowl using a spoon – be careful, it will be hot! I usually use a washcloth to hold onto the egg while I cut and scoop it. Also, don’t get frustrated, this maneuver takes a little practice :D !
7. Sprinkle the eggs with the cumin – feel free to use more then the recipe says.
8. Spoon a little brown butter (just the oil, not the foam) on top of the eggs and serve with toast.
Yield 1 serving

Soft Boiled Eggs with Cumin and Brown Butter Sauce - YUM :D


The Best Potato Skins! – Recipe

Posted by on Dec 28, 2011 in Appetizers, Food Journal | Comments Off

The Best Potato Skins! – Recipe

Potato skins are one of my very favorite junk foods. :D! They are sooooo gooood, and you can fill them with whatever you happen to have in the fridge! This is a great way to get rid of left overs too, especially meat and veggies! We have a family junk food night about once a month and these are often included. They are also really great for big get togethers because they can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated or even frozen and then baked as needed. When I make them I always try to make a few extra and freeze them for my son. He is a 16 year old eating machine and this gives him something he can easily bake in the toaster oven for a quick after school snack. Also, I know what I put in them at home and I don’t worry about all the extra funky chemicals that are sometimes added to the store bought or the restaurant versions (which sometimes come to the restaurant frozen anyway). I am going to give you a basic recipe and then you can change it as you see fit. Your imagination is the limit as far as what to put in them. Please feel free to experiment. We have filled them with crab and havarti with cream cheese, steak and green bell peppers with provolone and lots of other fun combos. Have fun, and happy cooking!

*note-The quantities are super approximate because you can fill the skins as much or as little as you want. I just wanted to give you a general shopping list. Don’t get hung up on measuring!
5 potatoes
1 Tablespoon canola oil (plus more if you’re frying-see note on lower fat potato skins)
iodized salt
black pepper (fresh ground if possible)
1 small can cheddar cheese (the funky but delicious canned kind – like Campbell’s – you can also use Velveeta (melted))
6 slices bacon (good quality, I use apple-wood smoked)
3 cups cheddar cheese (a good quality one, shredded – I use Tillamook Sharp Cheddar)
3 Tablespoons chives or green onions, chopped
1 cup sour cream or yogurt


1. Wash all potatoes thoroughly.
2. Pre-heat your oven to 425°F.
3. Lightly cover the outside of the potatoes with canola oil *see note on a lower fat potato skin.
4. Place in a roasting pan, cover the pan with foil and bake for about 1 hour-until they are tender.
5. While your potatoes are cooking, chop and cook your bacon, shred your cheese, open the canned cheese, and chop the chives.
6. Remove the potatoes and allow them to cool.
7. Cut the potatoes in half long ways and use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh-save what you scoop out for another use (see video).
8. Heat the canola oil (about 1 inch deep) in a wide pot – you can also use a deep fryer. *You can also bake instead of fry for this step, see note on lower fat potato skins.
9. Fry the skins by gently placing them in the oil, using tongs, first skin side down for about 30 seconds, then skin side up until golden (about 30 seconds to one minute).
10. Remove from the oil and place skin side up on a sheet pan and allow to drain and cool for about one minute.
11. Sprinkle lightly, all over with iodized salt and pepper.
12. Fill the skins by spooning some of the canned cheese into the center, follow with some bacon, then top with the shredded cheddar. *see note for making ahead of time
13. Place them back into the oven on a sheet pan until the cheese is melted.
14. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
15. Garnish the skins with the sour cream or yogurt and chives or green onions and enjoy!

*For a lower fat version-In step three use olive oil and also sprinkle the potatoes with kosher salt and pepper. For step eight, brush the skins with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper then place back in the oven for about ten minutes, just until they start to crisp up a little- don’t allow to dry out. Continue with step 12. You can also use lower fat cheeses and fat free yogurt instead of sour cream.
**For making ahead of time-After filling the skins, place on a sheet pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap-you can make these one day ahead and keep refrigerated. If you would like to store them longer, you can freeze them by gently pushing the shredded cheese down, covering them in plastic wrap, and placing flat in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen you can put them in a gallon freezer bag or freezer safe container. They will keep in the freezer for up to three months

Please enjoy this “how-to” video!

Champagne and Sparkling Wines

Posted by on Dec 21, 2011 in Culinary 101, Food Journal, Holidays | 0 comments

Champagne and Sparkling Wines

It’s that time of year again everyone, Yay!!! Time to break out the Champagne and Sparkling wines (not that I wait until this time of year)! :D ! I’m super excited anyway though! I just love how happy and fuzzy everyone is right now! Is it all the drinking :)?I have a very deep love and passion for wines too. I know they can be a little intimidating or confusing for a beginner though (I was there once too). So, here’s a quick Champagne/Sparkling Wines 101!

What is the difference between Champagne and a Sparkling Wine?
Champagne is both a province and a wine. To be called “Champagne”, the wine must come from the Champagne region of France. Yes, I realize that you have seen a wine with the word Champagne on it that wasn’t French. This happens for two reasons. The most common is that there are French Champagne houses in California – ones that began in France or are owned by one in France. The other is that the producer doesn’t care that Champagne is a province where Champagne comes from and they put it on their label anyway probably in hopes of getting a higher price for their product. I’ve read that there is an international treaty that prevents places other then Champagne from using the name Champagne, I don’t think this is entirely accurate though. However, within the European Union, only wines from the Champagne region can use the name.

Where do the bubbles come from?
So, in really simple terms. Winemakers take grape juice and add yeast (or use the natural yeast that is already there). They put it in a barrel. The yeast “eats” the sugar in the juice. The yeast then “poos” alcohol, bubbles, and heat – but in a good way. This is the easiest way for me to look at it. This is the first fermentation. This is how a still wine (wine without bubbles) is created. The still wine then goes through a second fermentation to add the bubbles. Generally the winemaker will add more sugar and yeast to start the second fermentation. This second fermentation will have one of three fancy names.

1. Methode Champenoise (method Shahm-pen-WAHZ)- this is the traditional French method. The first fermentation takes place in the barrel, the second in the bottle. During the second fermentation the bottles are kept on a rack that keeps them angled down. They are turned 1/4 turn or so daily. This process is called riddling in English or remuage (pronounce reh-moo AHJ) in French. Riddling helps the sediment (little dead yeast corpses) find their way to the neck of the bottle. When the fermentation is done, they freeze the neck and pop off the bottle cap that is there for the second fermentation. The ice cube pops out (there is a lot of pressure there), they top it off and they put a cork in it. They then put that pretty foil wrapper around the top (to hide inconsistent liquid levels) and label it. Pretty simple right?

2. Methode Traditionale – this is the same as Methode Champenoise, only we use this term in America.

3. Charmat (pronounce shar mah) Process (also called Cuve Close, bulk method, tank method)- in this process, the bubbles are added basically the same as they are in soda. The fermentation is done in bulk in big steel tanks. This results in bigger bubbles and is usually used for less expensive wines. These wine are generally good choices for mimosa, Bellini and punches. If you’re going to cover the flavor anyway, why spend a ton of money?

If your bubbles are small and flow upward in a continuous stream you probably have a wine produced by  Methode Champenoise. If your bubbles are large and float more random, they were probably made via the Charmat Process. Small scratches in your glassware can also effect the bubbles. We used to scratch a small x at the bottom or our wine glasses in the restaurant because it makes the bubbles flow from the bottom and kind of spiral up. It’s prettier ;).

How do I know if it’s going to be sweet or not?
Read the label silly :). This is a list from driest to sweetest.
Brut (rhymes with root) – driest
Extra Dry – a little less dry then Brut (I don’t know why, and yes, it doesn’t make sense)
Sec – dry
Demi Sec – off dry
Doux – Sweet

By the way, I think I should mention here that the wine term dry means there is no sweetness or sugar. I think a lot of people confuse this with tannic. Tannic is when it dries your mouth out, like if you put a tea bag in your mouth (try it) it makes your mouth feel dry like it’s sticking to itself. Also fruity does not equal sweet. A wine can be totally dry and still be fruity. Again this has nothing to do with the sugar level and everything to do with the other acids present in the wine. We’ll save all that for another day though. So just to be ultra super clear, a wine cannot be dry and sweet at the same time. OK :) .

What do Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noir mean?
Blanc de Blanc – This means white wine from white grapes. In other words, it’s likely made from Chardonnay grapes. These are very versatile and good with lots of foods.
Blanc de Noir – This is white wine made from black (red) grapes. Most likely from Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes.
If you come across a sparkling rose, it is most likely a blanc de blancs with an addition of still pinot noir just before corking.

What is NV or MV?
NV stands for non-vintage, and MV stands for multi-vintage. They are the same thing. If you are drinking a non-vintage wine, this means it is a mix of different harvest years. Champagne is almost always blended both of harvest years and of grapes to maximize complexity and consistency. Each component brings a unique character to the finished wine. The non-vintage is usually the “calling card” of a producer. Non-vintage also usually makes up the bulk of their production. If there is no date on the label, you’re drinking non-vintage.

What is Vintage?
When a growing season makes beautiful grapes, producers like to bottle them as a vintage. A vintage comes from one growing season and is not blended from multiple seasons of grapes. It shows off the characteristics of a specific year. They are more rare and more expensive. I wouldn’t say that they are always better though, just different. If you are drinking a vintage, there will be a date on the label.

What should I use to make mimosas, Bellini and punches?
I have had people tell me that if you wouldn’t drink it alone, don’t use it as a mixer or to cook. I have to disagree very strongly with this. I recommend using a less expensive sparkling wine as a mixer somewhere in the five dollar range. I might even go as high as seven dollars. If you are pouring a 40 dollar bottle into a punch bowl, you are wasting it! Sorry, but you are. The taste is hidden behind all the juice and whatever else you have in there. You lose the flavors that you paid extra for. The same goes for cooking, please don’t use a beautiful 40 dollar bottle of wine in a sauce, it is going to cook and you are going to lose all the subtle flavors that made it worth 40 dollars in the first place! Save your nice wine to drink by itself or with some delicious food that compliments it!

This should be enough info to get you through the wine store and past the snobby sales person. So, get out there and pop those corks, and next time don’t wait all year!

Christmas Cookies – Recipe

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in Cookies, Food Journal, Holidays | Comments Off

Christmas Cookies – Recipe

Christmas Cookies – For this recipe, I’m going to give you two different versions. To be honest, they taste almost exactly the same. Why am I giving you two versions that taste the same? One is a healthier whole wheat and low sugar version and one is a more traditional version. I make the whole wheat for my family, but I know some people are going to want the white flour version they grew up with. Again, I would like to say that they taste almost identical (my kids ate both when I was testing these recipes and didn’t even notice). So even though they’re both my recipes, I’m going to recommend the whole wheat version. I think eating healthy is important. If you can get a whole wheat, lowered sugar cookie past the kids unnoticed why wouldn’t you? These are lots of fun to decorate too! You can use a store bought icing if you want, but the home-made one is easy to make. So, on that note, crank up the Christmas music, pour some eggnog and make some memories (and some cookies). I hope you enjoy making these as much as we did! Happy Cooking!



1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 Tablespoon milk
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.
4. Add the egg yolks, orange zest, vanilla, lemon extract and milk to the butter mixture and mix to combine.
5. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture 1/2 at a time mixing in between additions to combine.
6. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap (I double wrap mine and put it in a gallon baggie to keep it from tasting like whatever’s in the fridge).
7. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. You can also freeze the dough at this point.
8. Roll out the cookies onto a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.
9. Cut the dough into shapes and place them onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
*I use a spatula to move the cookies with a lot of detail in their shape and then remove the cutter once they’re on the pan.
10. Bake your pretty little cookies at 400°F for 6-7 minutes – do not brown them.

yield 12-15 cookies depending on shape and size

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies


1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup splenda
1 egg
1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate (thawed)
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and splenda.
4. Add the egg, orange zest, vanilla, lemon extract and orange juice concentrate to the butter mixture and mix to combine.
5. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture 1/2 at a time mixing in between additions to combine.
6. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap ( I double wrap mine and put it in a gallon baggie to keep it from tasting like whatever’s in the fridge). You can also freeze your dough at this point.
7. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
8. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.
9. Cut the dough into shapes and place them onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
*I use a spatula to move the cookies with a lot of detail in their shape and then remove the cutter once I have them on the pan.
10. Bake your Christmas Cookies at 400°F for 6-7 minutes – do not brown.
yield 12-15 cookies depending on shape and size


2/3 cup butter (room temperature)
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
6 cups powdered sugar

1. Cream the butter in a medium bowl for about 30 seconds.
2. Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of milk and mix to combine.
3. Add the powdered sugar half at at time and mix in between additions. Use the additional milk to thin the frosting as necessary.
4. Add the color according to the package directions.
5. Decorate your cookies (I used piping bags for most of my decorating).

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Pumpkin Eggnog – Recipe

Posted by on Dec 12, 2011 in Desserts, Food Journal, Holidays | 0 comments

Pumpkin Eggnog (pumpkin eggnog recipe with instructions and video tutorial follow)- Eggnog is a Christmas time tradition in our house as I’m sure it is in many of yours. It is also something that we go through by the gallon which I’m sure you can imagine with 5 children and 2 adults in the house. Everyone has their favorite too. My Son and I love the pumpkin eggnog (especially in coffee, think pumpkin latte), my oldest daughter and our three year old love traditional eggnog, our 12 year old daughter loves chocolate eggnog (difficult to find in stores), my husband needs soy for his eggnog, and the baby is just happy about this new thing in her life called eggnog – no matter what flavor she is given. Of course, everyone in the house agrees on one thing – home-made is best. So, here is my favorite flavor of eggnog, pumpkin eggnog, from my kitchen to yours. Happy Cooking!


4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice *see note
6 egg yolks


*I highly recommend watching the “how to” video on this one first!
1. Place the milk, sugar, pumpkin, salt vanilla and pumpkin pie spice in a medium sauce pot.
2. Bring the liquid up to 170 degrees, stir often scraping the bottom of the pan – while this is warming, prepare an ice – water bath.
3. Whisk the egg yolks until they are pale yellow.
4. Temper the eggs with the milk mixture-this means slowly add one cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs while whisking (check out the video).
5. Add one more cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs.
6. Add the egg and milk mixture into the sauce pan with the remaining milk mixture.
7. Cook over medium to medium-high until your mixture reaches 180 degrees. You have to watch the temperature. If it gets to hot, you will have milky, pumpkin flavored, scrambled eggs instead of pumpkin eggnog.
8. Pour the eggnog mixture into a bowl that is setting in your ice – water bath and allow it to cool stirring often.
9. Pour your pumpkin eggnog into cups or place it in the refrigerator.
10. Garnish your yummy pumpkin eggnog with whipped cream and nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice if desired.
*If you would like to add alcohol to your pumpkin eggnog, I recommend a Brandy or Rum. I would also recommend adding it to the individual cups and not to the whole batch unless it will all be served right away.
**Again I recommend watching the pumpkin eggnog video before you start making your pumpkin eggnog!

yields about 6 servings

Please enjoy this “how to” video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

Puerto Rican Rice and Beans (Brown Rice) – Recipe

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in Food Journal, Sides | 0 comments

Puerto Rican Rice and Beans (Brown Rice) – Recipe

Puerto Rican Rice and Beans – You know how there are certain foods that warm you up inside and make your tummy happy? They’re usually foods that you grew up eating, things Mom or Grandma or someone you love made for you. They’re the foods that we refer to as “comfort foods”. Well, I didn’t grow up Puerto Rican, nor did I grow up eating this dish, however, over the years, it has become one of my comfort foods. This is another one of those dishes that my wonderful Puerto Rican in-laws introduced me to and I have to say once again that Puerto Rican Food is some of the best tasting stuff on Earth. I love it!  There are a lot of main dishes you can serve this with like roast pork loin, or even a nice fish dish done with Caribbean flavors, it also makes a nice main course just as it is. If you would like you can also spice it up with some hot sauce. Everyone in my house does except for me and the babies but I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to spicy food. I hope you love this dish and it warms your tummy! Happy cooking!

Sofrito -This will make way more then you need, I make a huge batch in my food processor and freeze it in one cup portions. Feel free to scale this way down (divide by like 4 or so) especially if you don’t have a food processor. I do recommend making the extra and saving it if you have a food processor though. You are going to want to make this again and it will save some time. If you only want to make enough for this recipe, just divide it by eight. Don’t worry, I’ll do the math for you. :)

Ingredients for the Sofrito

2 onions
5 green bell peppers
2 heads garlic
1 bunch cilantro

*If you are only making enough sofrito for this recipe use 1/4 onion, 1/2 bell pepper, 4 cloves garlic, 2 sprigs cilantro. Chop everything fine and mix it together.

Instructions for the Sofrito

1. Peel the garlic and pulse it in a food processor until it’s minced. Put it in a large bowl.
2. Slice the bell peppers down the sides. Be careful of the seed packet (throw those away) and pulse in the food processor until minced.
3. Add to your garlic.
4. Peel and quarter the onions. Pulse them in a food processor just a few times and add the cilantro. Pulse them until they’re minced.
5. Add this to the garlic and bell pepper mixture.
6. Stir everything up to combine it.

You now have the beginning of tons of Island Dishes. Beautiful Sofrito. At this point I freeze it into one cup portions in baggies for future use. It’s a great time saver. Keep two cups out for the recipe though.

Ingredients for the Rice and Beans

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sofrito *(or follow the measurements above for “enough for just this recipe)*
10 olives (you can add more if you want)
1 teaspoon capers
1 potatoe, medium diced (about 1 1/4 cups diced)
1 (16 oz) can dark red kidney beans *see note
2 cup chicken stock (it’s ok to used canned stock or broth, just make sure it’s low sodium)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 pack sazon (Goya makes this), or replace your olive oil with achiote oil (annoto oil)
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano (dried, or 3 tsp fresh)
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup tomato sauce

*For the beans you can use light or dark kidney beans or pinto beans or any other you choose. I usually double the recipe and use one can of kidney beans and one can of pinto beans. I don’t recommend black beans though.


1. Place the olive oil in a medium sauce pot.
2. Saute the sofrito in the olive oil for about two minutes.
3. Add the olives and capers then saute for another minute.
4. Add the potatoes and beans and stir.
5. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper, and herbs and spices, then stir.
6. Add the tomato sauce and stir.
7. Bring everything to a boil.
8. Reduce the heat. Allow your beans to simmer for about a half an hour, stir every five or ten minutes or so scraping the bottom to keep it from sticking.
9. As it thickens, you may need to stir more often.
10. Allow the beans to cook until you have a nice thick sauce.
11. Serve your beans over rice (I use brown rice and I cook it in my rice cooker, you will need 2 or 3 cups of cooked rice for serving depending on how you portion it).

Please enjoy this “how to” video!

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2012

Pumpkin-Crumb Muffins (Whole Wheat) with Cream Cheese Filling – Recipe

Posted by on Dec 1, 2011 in Breakfast, Food Journal, Holidays | 0 comments

Pumpkin-Crumb Muffins (Whole Wheat) with Cream Cheese Filling – Recipe

Pumpkin-Crumb Muffins-The toughest critic of my food in the house is definitely my baby. She is one and a half or I guess technically 19 months old. She is a great gage on how well a recipe turned out because she is completely honest and does not worry about sparing my feelings. If she likes the food, she eats it. If she doesn’t like the food a very dramatic display of her wiping out her mouth and scraping her tongue with her fingers ensues, she follows up by throwing the said food onto the floor and screaming as if she’s been insulted or injured. It’s much cuter than it sounds! Anyway, every now and then, I get the reaction where she completely stuffs her mouth and then points and grunts for more. If she really loves it, these grunts turn into insistent screams. Today, I got the insistent screams and so I must say that these are currently, in the baby’s humble and quiet opinion (LOL), the best pumpkin muffins around. Oh, and there’s an optional cream cheese filling! Happy Cooking!!!!!

crumb topping

crumb topping
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 cup light brown sugar
4 Tablespoons butter (room temperature and cut into chunks)

Instructions for Crumb Topping
1. Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and stir them with a fork.
2. Start mashing and stirring the butter with the fork until it looks like you have crumbs.
3. Set this mixture to the side.

Ingredients for the Muffin Batter
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice *see note

1 stick butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon maple extract

Instructions for Pumpkin Muffin Batter

The wet ingredients look like this when mixed.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F and prepare a muffin pan with cooking spray or butter and flour.
2. Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and pumpkin spice in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar.
4. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
5. Add the eggs, pumpkin, milk, and maple extract to the butter and sugar and mix-this will not come together, just mix it until it looks uniform.
6. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add your wet ingredients into the well.
7. Mix to combine.
8. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way.
9. Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of crumb topping onto each one and mash it down a little tiny bit into the batter.
10. Bake your pumpkin muffins at 350°F for about 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

well in the dry ingredients

Filling for the Pumpkin Muffins (optional)

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces powdered sugar

1. Cream the cream cheese and butter together.
2. Mix in the vanilla.
3. Mix in the powdered sugar adding it half at a time.
4. Fill a piping bag fitted with a #2 tip with the cream cheese filling.
5. Pipe the filling into the pumpkin muffins from the bottom – see video.

yield 12 muffins

*You can make your own pumpkin pie spice by combining equal amounts of nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice and half as much ground cloves.

i.e. – 1 tsp nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice and 1/2 tsp ground cloves

**You can also roast your own sugar pumpkin instead of using canned pumpkin puree, but most of us don’t have the time- especially in the morning!

Check out this “how to” video!

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